Rain, rain, go away...
19.12.2009 - 22.12.2009 15 °C
So after our 10-hour bus ride, we arrived in the dark, pouring rain to Meknes bus station. We tried flagging a 'petit taxi' into the Medina, but we were repeatedly ignored in favour of locals until someone picked us up. Probably because they're metered, so why pick up someone who can't speak Arabic and will pay you the same?
Our gratefulness wore off though, when we received the 'Just Arrived Tourist treatment' - instead of being ripped off, we were dropped off... in the middle of nowhere. We even had written instructions for our driver. So we sought shelter and waited, drenched, unsure of what to do next, when Mavis' cellphone rang! It was the owner, wondering where we were. While his English was good, we had difficulty describing where we were (as 'nowhere' and 'in a dark street' didn't really suffice) so he asked us to pass the phone to someone who could speak Arabic. The only people around were little kids, so Jac picked a responsible looking girl and gave her the phone... poor girl had to try and speak while an untrusting Jac's gripped with vice-like determination.
Within 10 minutes, Omar the Manager cheerfully turned up and lead us into the Old Town and to our Riad. We were kinda wondering what we'd booked, as the alleyway we arrived at was dark and dingy, but to our surprise when he lead us through the nondescript front door, a beautiful and homely Riad greeted us! The central courtyard had lovely marble floors, there were little salons with plush sitting areas and cushions, and huge, antique doors and carpets adorning the walls. Omar and his staff were the most accomodating and lovely people ever.
So Meknes is fairly small and quiet, and often overshadowed by its bigger and more impressive neighbour, Fez which is only 60kms to the east. However the grand mosaic gates and enormous sand-coloured imperial walls make you feel like you're truly enclosed in an Imperial City. The souqs sell more modern goods, like shoes and clothing, but there are still the requisite artisan shops, with owners enticing you in.
The unfortunate thing about Meknes is that it rained. And rained. And rained. But we still managed to walk lots and see the sights, like the tomb of My Ismail, who was the first King to unify Morocco and pacify the Berber tribes. It was the first 'sacred' place that allowed entry to non-Muslims, and it while only Muslims could approcach the tomb itself, the mausoleum was beautifully tiled in mosaics and had wild mint growing in the corners. Another highlight was that Chalky and Jac also managed to order The Biggest Couscous dish ever in a local restaurant, which took some sleeve-rolling and space-saving burps :p
Despite the rain we stayed for two days and then took a train to Fez in search of better weather.... and computers that let us upload photos...